(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Diseases of Language               415
It would be congenial to announce that the Loom of Language can
simplify the task of learning a language spoken by more than a twen-
tieth of the world's inhabitants, and used as the vernacular of a union
of states which has undertaken the first large-scale experiment in
economic planning Unfortunately we are not able to do so. It is a
commonplace that Russian collectivism originated in a country which
was in a backward phase of technical and political evolution It is
also, and conspicuously, true that it originated in a country which
was in a backward phase of linguistic evolution. Because other Aryan
languages such as Danish, Dutch, or Persian have discarded so much
of the grammatical luggage which their ancestors had to carry, it is
possible to simplify the task of transmitting a working knowledge of
them by summarizing the relatively few essential rules with which the
beginner must supplement a basic vocabulary. There is no royal road
to fluency in a language which shares the grammatical intricacies of
Sansknt, Lithuanian, or Russian. It is therefore impossible to give the
reader who wishes to learn Russian any good advice except to take the
precaution of being born and brought up in Russia Some reader may
doubt whether this is a fair statement of the case. Let us look at the
evidence*
(1)  Like that of Lithuanian, the Russian noun is burdened with
locative and instrumental case-forms which some other Aryan
languages had already discarded a thousand years B c.
(2)  Russian shares with German and Icelandic the three genders,
masculine, feminine, neuter Like German, Icelandic, and
Lithuanian, it possesses two adjectival declensions, one for use
when the adjective is attributive, the other when it is predi-'
cative (dam nov, ficthe house is new"ónomy dom> "the new
house") The irregularities of adjectival behaviour make those
of Latin fade into insignificance
(3)  The numbers 25 3, 4 with fully developed case and gender flexions
form a declensional class of their own From 5 to 30 numbers
are declined like certain feminine nouns From 50 to So both parts
of the number are declined From 5 upwards the things counted
must be put into the genitive plural The numbers 2-10 carry
a subsidiary set of forms called collectives for use where we
would say;, e g , we were five of us, or she has six sons
(4)  The essential Russian vocabulary, like that of German, is inflated
by a wasteful luxuriance of verb-forms Thus there are couplets
distinguished by presence or absence of an infix which denotes
repetition, or by one of several prefixes which signify com-
pletion For instance, dyelat and dyehvat signify to do once and
to do repeatedly s ya pisal means / was wntmg> and ya napisdl